These are the stories told by people living with HIV AIDS.
Sound is memory.
I’ve always associated storytelling with sound, first and foremost. As a classically trained pianist, I learned very early ways to understand emotions and discover narratives within even the most abstract constructs. The recurring themes in a sonata, the melodies of a nocturne, the complex and delicate structure of a fugue, each represent a different way of communication. Music speaks to me as if a medium between the world and me, for it translates the sound of nature, foreign concepts, and memories of the past, into something comprehensible and universal. To me, language, human voice, is a type of music itself. The natural rhythm of a conversation, the pacing and pauses innate to the way someone speaks, reveals much more than texts alone.
I started creating sound “sculptures” serendipitously, when I found myself stuck back home in China while waiting for my O1 visa application in 2015. I was cut off from communicating regularly with my collaborators and friends in the states and the rest of the world. I was frustrated by the isolation, and inspired by my longing to create a world of memories that can sustain my artistic aspirations, and my connection to a community that I was becoming a part of. At the same time, something that constantly moves me is how similar humans are regardless of their cultural backgrounds, colors, ages, genders, and upbringings. I want to create with that truth and use raw, unfiltered human voices as if tiny brushstrokes in a pointillism painting. I want to construct a symphony with contrasting opinions that are ultimately rooted in the same sources: love, fear, loss, and again, love.
64 voices came to me during the creation of Harmony (thearcticgroup.org/harmony), and 28 during Echo (thearcticgroup.org/echo), from a multitude of perspectives. Conversations began to from between strangers, and moments of serendipity surface. I have felt intimacy like never before with people I barely know, just listening to their responses to a question that bring out something vulnerable and beautiful about them. I am shook by the bravery of people from all corners of the world, who expose the depth of their truths to me, and I hope that I could honor their profound sincerity in the most respectful way.
Some things that have influenced my process: The film August Rush, Tan Dun’s music, Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir, Grotowski’s vocalization exercises, the language of the trees (listen to them, really listen), just to name a few.
And your voice: it deserves to be heard.